Interior Design for the Recession. Part II; Getting Started.

So by now, you’re probably saying to yourself, “Okay, so how do I get on board on this Smartass thing I’ve heard so many good things about?” The answer is not just finding clever ideas but creating your own. You know, that whole; teach a man to fish and he'll be fishing for life sort of thing.

1) The Plan. Decide what rooms you’d like to redo.

Whether it’s all the rooms in a McMansion or just a breakfast nook in your 300 sq. ft studio apartment, consider all spaces separate. Don’t feel the need to have a 'flow’ from room to room or be tied in to one style for the whole house. Whoever came up with that rule? Everyone has different moods and changing tastes. Why shouldn't your house reflect that. It’s your house. Do what you want (and you won’t get bored with your house).

2) Themes. Once you decide which room you're starting with, pick a theme for it that will carry over in your decisions. You'll keep only in the room that fits within that criteria.

The theme can be anything. It could come from a movie, a museum...maybe a pastime like lawn bowling or dodge ball or maybe a historical event, the Magna Carta. In the '70s an art director for National Lampoon had an office that was camouflaged as a jungle wired with the sounds of the rain forest.

Maybe a shi shi bathroom you peed in.

You do not have to reinvent the wheel. It can be a style you've seen somewhere else or that is popular at the moment like Steampunk, Funhouse, Gothic, Space Odyssey. Even familiar themes that are tried and true (e.g. Shabby Chic, Shaker, Western) can still be smartass and fun. The point is to realize your dream home–you’re not trying to win a home contest.

Your theme can be a combination of things, things you don’t even like. One of my bathrooms is half dentist office, half Titanic. I don't even like cruises! I have a living room in the style of 1920’s Russian Industrial...with a dash of miniature golf course. And I should mention I previously had no fondness for the Russian Industrial Age.

It doesn't even have to have a name.
As long you know what it is and you have a sense in your head what mood it should emote, go for it.

Your ideas will come easier when you have that goal.
It doesn't have to have a name as long as there is a consistency and logic within the space that creates a look. An example is a bathroom of mine below.


It's sort of ‘Outhouse Meets Myst.’

First photo and below by Tamar Stone © 2005

These are NOT photos of my bathroom but what inspired, a bathroom I recently added to my house...

For such a small bathroom, 4' x 8', there's a lot of crap going on inside. For starters, the tiny loo is full of angles and slants. Even the floor has a severe slope. The only thing plumb is the alignment of the light, it's switch and the grate below (the black square). The light is a 'porch' lantern controlled by an old Bakelite toggle switch. Below that an orate floor grate which now connects to the office (the room featured next), providing air circulation when needed–the beautiful iron grid can be closed. Both were found at country auctions for under a dollar (you'd have to go to your more rural areas to find them and install them yourself as they are no longer to code.).

The sink was found on the streets of NYC (more later in a future episode about installing antique plumbing). Even the cabinet was found on the streets of NYC but it was homemade, by someone. We knew one day we wanted to use it somehow and when the project of a second bathroom came up, eureka.

Old hooks missing their paint and squeaky crooked latches keep with the rustic, quirky theme.

The shelves of the cabinet were made of old wood and wavy glass after the cabinet was lined with fruit crate labels purchased from ebay and glued on with Mod Podge (one layer with a sponge brush). That along with the antique personal hygiene items decorating the interior, it's a real conversation piece.

Shoe-forms show up in my home more often than bedpans and here they provide a bizarre cryptic element.

This holder was made from spare parts & various items including a wine cork attached to a garden pin to allow for a new roll of toilet paper.

If photos or artwork were used as reference in creating the theme of a room, then frequently those items actually appear as art IN the room. And here are those Polaroids of the outhouse above taken by my wife (who documents outhouses as a hobby) framed and predominately displayed next to the toilet bowl.

Next door is my office done as the Captain’s quarters of an old ship. The computer stuff was all refitted into old crates in a style I call “low-tide.”

The style even spills over to the outside of the room where a porthole greets you along with a very old coat hook and a ship lantern. The doors in the house are all custom as they set the mood for any room and how this one was made will be explained in the near future.

A close-up of the hanging lantern shows it's just some chain and a hook but with all hardware I look for authentic looking materials and in this case junk found back of some old man's garage.

Special thanks to Michael Gadomski for this photo. 2009 ©

Inside is my work space made up of a double monitor Mac (making one large continuous screen) and electronic drawing pad. The computer is equipped with silly extras like UBS mini-vac, UBS fan, UBS cup warmer, UBS lights and other UBS doodads which I like to boost about but never use. The room has an "airport" for wireless stereo and internet for rest of house.

The wood that covers the computers came from a thrown out sewing machine and an old victrola. The wooden box on the left houses the printer/scanner. I just hot glue-gunned old wood and burlap to the printer. I drilled a hole on top for the Mac's video camera.

The desk is covered with maps Mod Podged to a board bridged across two filing cabinets I found on rubbish day since painted with old ship illustrations and then sponged with sepia ink to look aged. I have a large drum of Mod Podge in my basement. Submarine parts and mechanical gauges decorate the wall alongside honest-to-goodness useful instruments like a barometer and clock. The painting is a beautiful Hudson River Valley seascape won at an auction. It came with the gold-leaf frame, the painting light and a large rip across the center for the price of one quarter. Wooden box one of many items found in my attic originally from my 7th grade Woodshop class. One never knows when something will have value some day again.

One doesn't have to be rich to be an art collector and even in this recession anyone can own a great collection if you have ten or twenty dollars. I have over 500 pieces of art, not including 600 plus of my artwork from when I painted myself. And that doesn't include my huge collections of other forms of art including over 800 antique snowmen. To prove my point I've include 3 paintings from my vast collection in this post Each cost me 25¢ (this gorgeous 19th cen. oil painting being the first)

Volt-meter on bottom right which mirrors the electrical outage of computer for no apparent reason.

A large world map became part of the ceiling. The ceiling was made from individual beadboards individually cut, sanded and stained for a realistic look and feel of a ship. This space was originally an attic.

Copies of maps then color-tainted mounted onto frames being thrown out by unsuspecting neighbors.

Lawn bowling balls bought from Australia double as faux cannon balls.

Two other ship lanterns provide additional alittle lighting and alot of aura.

Nobody wanted these at sale and were given away free. They're nifty and useful if for their ceramic buttons alone which can make cool earrings or cuff links. Many 'Steampunk' guys would love getting their hands on parts like this to make amazing customized computer keywords (for more) like this;

Below this room downstairs is the master bedroom. It was decided it's theme would be “Farm Pasture.” Knowing this made decisions on paint color, linens and artwork obvious...and fun.

That object under the chair is an antique foot massager.

The headboard was inspired by an old hotel sign I saw on the road and photographed. It was created by nailing together rounded boards and using Crackle-it. I painted the artwork with regular housepaint. The reading lights are old park dooms mixed and matched with broken lamps. 25 watt bulbs.

Scrapwood from other projects was used for the baseboards, "crown moulding" and chair rails. The warped boards provide charm and age. A fast, sloppy single coat of cheap white paint for crowns gives it a whitewash look. Color scheme; lightest on top with deepest hues on bottom creates the impression of a larger room while making objects set lower pop.

Pitchforks sit in metal pastry tips that are nailed to the wall. The tops are hot glue-gunned to the wall. A mirror found in dumpster trimmed with random boards from a demolished farm. No finish.

Two items, the painting of the schoolhouse and the wooden drawer, which each cost a quarter at a drive-in theater flea market. Junk in the basement completes the piece.

This oil painting was $6. Sometimes you have to spend a fortune for great art.

This painting is a good example of how an average or bad piece of art may not do much on it's own but in the right context it seems as if it was made for the room. 25¢.

This artwork (next to the birdhouse) was a wedding gift from an Icelandic folk artist. The two separate sculptures of us are situated together...when things are well. The two are placed apart whenever one of us need some space!

The dresser was bought with two others at an auction. The group went for $10, probably because the two dressers I kept had no knobs and peeling badly. The third with many glass knobs had terrible mold. I took the knobs from that one and placed them on the other two after I sanded them revealing beautiful layers of multi-colors. I burned the other dresser in a campfire.

Fancy corner mouldings? I no need no stinkin' fancy corner mouldings?!? Just a chunk of block and for this theme it looks like a perfect fit.

We adopted this dog planter and filled it with primitive wool balls.

The walls in this room originally were ('70s) dark paneling. One wall needed to be redone altogether so I could replace the original sash windows and put in installation. I skim-coated over the grooves of the paneling on top half (after degreasing it and priming it with a stain killer) but left the groves on the bottom (using the chair rail to camouflage the point where the two sections meet). The result is the illusion of two different materials used and one of a house older than the 1940s.

"Hey, aren't those beautiful new pine floors that cost alot?" I bet you're saying. No, I didn't forget it's a recession and yes, these were once new floors but that was many, many years ago. For something like $30 a bottle of Rejuvenate is the reason why these floors look new. And now you don't have to buy it through a creepy paid programming on late night TV–it's available in Home Depot and places like that. When we purchased the house the wrought iron bed was left with the place because it was missing the main head board–that is why why homemade a headboard, to save money and savage the smaller end of this once beautiful piece.

Pull cord light because we couldn't afford to have room properly wired (and mostly did not look forward to the invasiveness of such a project). I made the ceiling light from parts found from broken lamps (details later).

This is supposed to be a squirrel. You can't tell from the photo but he's very heavy.

Next time; Seeing Everything Differently & Getting Ideas

Future installments will be getting into unusual solutions to home decorating challenges as well as cover everything from lighting, flooring, painting and new trends. Please subscribe to get notices for new episodes.

Do you have a smartass home? Smartass Ideas For the Home wants to see your home! Get in touch @ snowmanexpert@pipeline.com

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